Trump accuses protesters of planning to attack ‘statues of Jesus Christ and George Washington’

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President Donald Trump claimed on Wednesday that protesters will be coming after statues of Jesus Christ and the founding fathers next and said he’d be ready to sign a ‘very strong executive order’ by the end of week to punish those who topple statues. 

‘Now they are looking at Jesus Christ, they are looking at George Washington, Thomas Jefferson,’ the president said during a Rose Garden press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

Trump, who has been working on an executive order that would strengthen laws protecting historical statues, said it would be ready for his signature by the end of week. He said earlier this week it would include up to 10 years in prison for anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such federal property.

‘We are going to come out with a strong executive order. I should have that by the end of the week, which is fast approaching. We are going to have a very powerful statement,’ he said at his press conference.

President Donald Trump claimed that protesters will be coming after statues of Jesus Christ and the founding fathers next

President Trump was angered when protesters tried to tear down a statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park; they were stopped by police

President Trump was angered when protesters tried to tear down a statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park; they were stopped by police

Andrew Jackson is one of Trump's favorite presidents and he has his portrait up in the Oval Office, seen in the upper left hand corner of the Oval Office photo above

Andrew Jackson is one of Trump’s favorite presidents and he has his portrait up in the Oval Office, seen in the upper left hand corner of the Oval Office photo above

The president’s interest in the issue came after protesters tried to pull down a statue of President Andrew Jackson that sits in Lafayette Park across from the White House on Monday night. They had ropes tied around the monument – which features the former president sitting aside a rearing horse – and were attempting to pull it down when members of law enforcement put a stop to it.

Lafayette Park has been a setting for massive Black Lives Matters protests that sprung up in the wake of the death of George Floyd. The administration had that area cleared of protesters – using chemical agents and rubber bullets – so Trump could walk to St. John’s church for a photo-op holding the bible, a move that earned him criticism.

Protesters on Monday also blocked off several streets around the White House and painted the letters B.H.A.Z., meaning Black House Autonomous Zone, around the area including on St. John’s church where Trump had his photo taken.

‘There will never be an ‘Autonomous Zone’ in Washington, D.C., as long as I’m your President,’ Trump tweeted in response. ‘If they try they will be met with serious force!’

His tweet was later flagged by Twitter for breaking its rules against abusive behavior. The tweet was muzzled so viewers have to click a link to see it. 

Protesters attempted to pull down Jackson's statue on Monday night

Protesters attempted to pull down Jackson’s statue on Monday night

Protesters climbed on the statue and tied ropes to it but were stopped by law enforcement

Protesters climbed on the statue and tied ropes to it but were stopped by law enforcement

Since Monday night’s protests Trump has taken up the cause of protecting memorials and monuments throughout out the United States. Jackson is one of his favorite presidents and he has a portrait of him in the Oval Office.  

Jackson served in the Army and won the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.  A similar statue of him stands in Jackson Square in that city.  But he’s been criticized for his severe treatment of Native Americans when he was president. He removed Cherokees from their tribal lands and sent them on a forced march to Oklahoma in what became known as the ‘Trail of Tears.’ Thousands of Cherokees died. 

Protesters have also toppled the statue of Confederate General Albert Pike, the only public statue of a Confederate official in Washington, D.C.

The president also cited the Veterans’ Memorial Preservation Act, which allows for fines and a prison term of up to 10 years for ‘attempts to injure or destroy, any structure, plaque, statue, or other monument on public property commemorating the service of any person or persons in the armed forces of the United States.’ 

The act, passed in 2013, does not require any action on the part of the president to be enforced.  

‘I have authorized the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property in the U.S. with up to 10 years in prison, per the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act, or such other laws that may be pertinent,’ Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

‘This action is taken effective immediately, but may also be used retroactively for destruction or vandalism already caused. There will be no exceptions!,’ he added. 

The initial targets of protesters were statues of Confederate soldiers and generals mainly in the South, but the anger has spread to figures outside of the Civil War era.

View of a defaced and toppled statue of Confederate Albert Pike, toppled by protesters in Washington D.C.

View of a defaced and toppled statue of Confederate Albert Pike, toppled by protesters in Washington D.C. 

The bronze sculpture representing the Goddess of Masonry on the base of the statue of a Confederate general, Albert Pike, is seen with red paint, after protestors toppled Pike statue's and set on fire

The bronze sculpture representing the Goddess of Masonry on the base of the statue of a Confederate general, Albert Pike, is seen with red paint, after protestors toppled Pike statue’s and set on fire

The bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson is severed from its base outside Jefferson High School in Portland, Oregon

The bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson is severed from its base outside Jefferson High School in Portland, Oregon

Demonstrators in Portland toppled a statue of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, two former presidents who were also slave owners. 

And protesters in San Francisco toppled the statue of former President Ulysses S. Grant, who led the Union Army during the Civil War, but also married into a family that owned slaves. 

Most of the topplings occurred around Juneteenth, the holiday that marks the end of slavery in the United States.  

Trump said on Tuesday, when it comes to the statues, he will ‘reinforce what’s already there, but in a more uniform way.’ He did not elaborate.

‘We are looking at long-term jail sentences for these vandals and these hoodlums and these anarchists and agitators and call it whatever you want,’ Trump said. ‘Some people don’t like that language, but that’s what they are. They’re bad people. They don’t love our country. And they’re not taking down our monuments, I just want to make that clear.’

Additionally, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for the removal of statues of Confederate soldiers and officials from the U.S. Capitol grounds. 

She had the portraits of four House speakers who served the Confederacy removed from the area where pictures of past speakers are displayed. 

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